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Since the days of Jimmy Carter, both Democratic and Republican presidents have vowed to curb the paper-shuffling. Printers, who do the heavy lifting when bureaucrats dream up new forms, say that Republicans tend to spawn defense-related forms while Democrats breed those tied to social programs. “As a Republican, I love it when the Dems run the White House and Congress,’’ said William A. Gindlesperger, a consultant to the commercial printing industry, “because they love to print.” –“The Form That Lets You Say, ‘More Forms, Please’,” Alison Leigh Cowan, The New York Times (via)
Scratch swerved the car around a cow, then a military vehicle equipped with a swivel gun. The speedometer clicked upward, and a man came into our sight, staggering down the edge of the road, carrying in his arms what appeared to be the limp body of a woman. The man shook his head at the passing traffic. Soon I could see that the woman’s head was bleeding, her eyes and mouth wide open, and her left hand dangling twisted and limp as if her sun-burnt skin were the only thing keeping it attached to her arm. Shouldn’t we stop? I wondered. We didn’t; no one did. Cars and trucks cut around the man and woman, kicking up tiny clouds of dust, and then past two crashed-up hatchbacks in a weedy ditch, where three men stood gesturing at the darkening sky. “Welcome to Kosovo,” Scratch said. –“The Wreckage of Intervention,” Christopher Stewart, The National
Whether democracy should be the utopia that all ‘developing’ societies aspire to be is a separate question altogether. (I think it should. The early, idealistic phase can be quite heady.) The question about life after democracy is addressed to those of us who already live in democracies, or in countries that pretend to be democracies. It isn’t meant to suggest that we lapse into older, discredited models of totalitarian or authoritarian governance. It’s meant to suggest that the system of representative democracy—too much representation, too little democracy—needs some structural adjustment. The question here, really, is what have we done to democracy? What have we turned it into? What happens once democracy has been used up? When it has been hollowed out and emptied of meaning? What happens when each of its institutions has metastasised into something dangerous? What happens now that democracy and the Free Market have fused into a single predatory organism with a thin, constricted imagination that revolves almost entirely around the idea of maximising profit? Is it possible to reverse this process? Can something that has mutated go back to being what it used to be? –“Is There Life After Democracy?” by Arundhati Roy, Dawn.com
On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in California’s ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as “invasive,” “exotic,” “alien” — all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.
In his speech, Farmer dutifully highlighted these ugly attributes, but also quoted a few more positive remarks made by others over the years. This was a reckless move. A reference to the tree as “indigenously Californian” elicited an abusive roar, as did an observation that without the aromatic import, the state would be like a “home without its mother.” Thereafter, the mild-mannered speaker was continually interrupted by boos, groans, and exasperated gasps. Only when he mentioned the longhorn beetle, a species imported (illegally) from Australia during the 1990s with the specific aim of killing the eucalyptus, did he earn a resounding cheer.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A tourism company in Australia announced a service that will allow users to take the “world’s biggest selfies,” and a Texas man accidentally killed himself while trying to pose for a selfie with a handgun.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”